Altamura Cathedral

Altamura, Italy

Altamura Cathedral has been since 1986 the seat of the Bishop of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti, formed in that year. The church was built by will of emperor Frederick in 1232-1254. The main gate, the portal, the rose window were all on the opposite side that in today's construction, while the altar was located in the area where the main gate is now.

An inscription in Latin, located upon the so-called 'Angevin door' (Porta Angioina), says that the church collapsed on January 29, 1316 and that it was rebuilt with the help of skilled constructors from the nearby Bitonto. The first man who correctly translated this inscription was local historian Ottavio Serena, as he stated in his unfinished work Storia di Altamura. Previous historians incorrectly translated the inscription (which was hard to read and written in bad Latin), assigning the inscription referred to a privilege that Altamura benefited, according to which every year Bitonto's mayor used to come to Altamura to take the price list of the foods and to spread it to the whole province.

The current orientation of the church is opposite to the original one, although it is not known if the change dates to Robert of Anjou's reign (early 14th century) or to the enlargement carried out in 1521-1547. The northern portal dates from Robert's time, while the second bell tower, the altar area and the sacristy were added in the 16th century. From the 18th century are the upper parts of the two bell towers and the small loggia between them. A chamber containing a clock with weights and counterweights, was demolished in the first half of the 16th century and then it was built again, and its latter shape it appears an 18th century painting of Saint Irene in the Council Hall of the city of Altamura. In the same painting, a thunder is shown hitting the tower of the cathedral; this refers to a real accident, which occurred in 1726. According to the sources, the thunder hit the cathedral twice, and it considerably damaged it. Over the following three years, restoration works were carried out and the towers were also extended. Domes were also added to each of the two towers.

In 1729, the statues of the Assumption of Mary and of the two saints Peter e Paul were made and then added. In the following years, the clock chamber was also dismissed and it turned into a Baroque loggia which is now visible between the two towers.


The façade has two tall bell towers with two orders in the right one, and three (including the first in Romanesque style, in the left one, which are joined by a small loggia surmounted by a tympanum. Most portals and windows have Gothic pointed arches (as also Frederick II's Castel del Monte has). The loggia houses a small statue of the Immaculate Virgin, while two statues of Sts. Peter and Paul are located at the tympanum sides. Under the loggia is a 14th century rose window, with 15 rays and, at its center, a basrelief depicting the Agnus Dei. At the left of the rose windows are three coat of arms: the center one belonged to 16th century emperor Charles V, while the other two date from the 16th century restoration works. Further to the left is a mullioned window with Eastern art-like decorations from the original Frederick II's building.

The façade is completed by a 14th centuryl portal, included within a prothyrum supported by two columns that have, at their base, two sculpture of lions (1533). At the top is a tympanum with the coats of arms of the House of Anjou and of the princes of Taranto, rulers of Altamura in the late 14th century. The portal is decorated with numerous sculpted scenes of Biblical scenese: in the lunette is a Virgin with Child and Two Angels; in the architrave is a Last Supper: finally, the arches houses 22 scenes from the Gospels, depicting Jesus' life from the Annunciation to the Pentecost.


Thee church has a nave and two aisles separated by columns and pillars, with matronaei at the sides. The capitals, in Byzantine style, are the last decoration detail visible today of the original Frederick II's building, together with the matronaei and the apse at the left of the portal.

The nave, with a wooden ceiling decorated with gilded stuccoes, ends in a large 18th century high altar, executed in 1736-1793. The altarpiece is an Assumption of the Virgin by Leonardo Castellano (1546). The presbytery houses a lavishly decorated wooden choir from 1543, a stone ambon with sculpted scenes from Jesus' life, and a wooden pulpit also dating from the 16th century.

The aisles feature six side chapels each. The first left chapel is home to a polychrome wooden nativity scene from 1587. The fourth left chapel, dedicated to St. Joseph, is in Baroque and includes a polychrome marble altar with the statue of the saint holding Jesus' hand with a baldachin.

The church also houses a canvas by Domenico Morelli depicting St. Paul's Conversion (1876).



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Arco Duomo 4, Altamura, Italy
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Founded: 1232-1254
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Giovanni Facendola (4 years ago)
One of the best place ever.
Lavinia BO (4 years ago)
Beautiful and grandiose place.
Ramsay Peterson (5 years ago)
Utterly beautiful and so peaceful. So many beautiful works of art. Worth a visit and a prayer.
carlo loiudice (5 years ago)
One of the most beautiful cathedrals in Puglia. The one built by Frederick the Second.
timothy sullivan (5 years ago)
We had a wonderful time during the Altamura festa di Federico. Thankyou to all the people who helped to make Florian's day memorable.
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